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Governor introduces bill to legalize gay marriage in N.Y.

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Associated Press / April 17, 2009
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NEW YORK - Governor David Paterson introduced a bill yesterday to legalize same-sex marriage in New York, comparing the effort to the fight for the abolition of slavery.

Paterson, whose job approval rating has plunged below 30 percent, is making a political gamble that he can ride the momentum of other states that have recently allowed the practice, and it's unclear how the legislation will play in New York.

The proposal is the same bill the Democratic-controlled state Assembly passed in 2007 before it died in the Senate, where the Republican majority kept it from going to a vote. Democrats now control the Senate, but opponents are vowing to make sure this one fails as well.

Gay marriage is a crucial issue of equal rights in America that cannot be ignored, Paterson said. He was joined by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, City Council speaker Christine Quinn, and other elected officials, as well as gay rights advocates and his wife, Michelle.

"For too long, gay and lesbian New Yorkers - we have pretended they have the same rights as their neighbors and friends. That is not the case. All have been the victims of what is a legal system that has systematically discriminated against them."

Paterson, who is black, framed the issue in sweeping terms, invoking Frederick Douglass and Harriet Beecher Stowe, and drawing a parallel between the fight to eliminate slavery in the 1800s to the current effort to allow gay marriage.

"Rights should not be stifled by fear," Paterson said.